Pence is up to his eyeballs in this treason: a timeline

The Trump White House has produced what appear to be at least three cover-ups. They relate to:

1) former-national security advisers questionable activities relating to Turkey;

2) Flynn’s role in the Trump/Russia controversy; and

3) the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Each is a piece of the larger picture depicted in our overall Trump-Russia timeline. But the complexity of the entire situation can render even the summary timeline overwhelming.

So as we continue to update our overall Trump-Russia timeline, we’re also putting together timelines that track key players and events. Our timeline of the Comey firing is the first example. By isolating the pertinent portions of relevant entries that share a common thread, important players have fewer places to hide. Facts, truth, and clarity are Trump’s adversaries.

This Pence edition of the timeline focuses on the vice president: What did he know, when did he know it, and at what points did his public statements diverge from what he knew or reasonably should have known? (The final phrase creates legal responsibility for presumed knowledge, even if the speaker in question denies it.)

Ultimately, the facts will produce answers, and we’ll be updating the Pence timeline, too.

Pre-Pence Primer on Flynn

Late summer 2015: A member of Trump’s campaign staff calls retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn to ask if he’s willing to meet with Trump. Flynn agrees.

Dec. 10, 2015: At the 10th anniversary gala of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT, Flynn sits at Putin’s table. For his appearance on the network, he nets $33,500 of the $45,000 paid to his speakers’ bureau. For all of 2015, Flynn receives more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia.

Mid-January 2016: Flynn applies for a five-year renewal of his security clearance. [Added May 25, 2017]

Feb. 11, 2016: According to a May 22, 2017 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), investigators meet with Flynn to discuss his security clearance application. When asked about his Moscow appearance, Flynn reportedly says, “I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.” [Added May 25, 2017]

March 14, 2016: Investigators issue a report on Flynn’s security clearance application. According to the summary in Rep. Cummings’ May 22 letter, Flynn told investigators he was paid by “US companies” when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015. The report also says that Flynn told investigators he had not received any benefit from a foreign country

 

Cover-up #1: Pence, Flynn, and Turkey

July 15, 2016: Trump tweets:  @realDonaldTrump

I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.
7:50 AM – 15 Jul 2016

August 2016: The consulting firm headed by Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn begins to perform lobbying work for a company owned by a close adviser to Turkey’s President Erdogan.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump and Pence win the election.

Nov. 10, 2016: During their first meeting after the election, President Obama warns Trump about appointing Mike Flynn to a top national security post. In 2014, Obama had removed Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Nov. 11, 2016: Vice President-elect Pence replaces Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as chair of Trump’s transition team.

Nov. 14, 2016: Reporters ask Mike Flynn’s business associate Robert Kelley if Turkish interests had retained their consulting firm from August through Election Day because of Flynn’s close relationship with Trump. “I hope so,” Kelley says. The subject of Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkey comes up again periodically in news reports throughout November and December.

Nov. 18, 2016: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sends Trump transition team chair (and Vice President-elect) Mike Pence a letter expressing concerns about national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn’s conflicts of interest. Specifically, Cummings worries about Flynn’s work for an entity affiliated with the government of Turkey, as well as a paid trip to Moscow in December 2015 during which Flynn was “highly critical of the United States.”

Nov. 28, 2016: Trump’s transition team acknowledges receipt of Cummings’ Nov. 18 letter regarding Mike Flynn.

Jan. 4, 2017: National security adviser-designate Mike Flynn tells the transition team’s chief counsel Donald F. McGahn II that he is under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. Flynn’s lawyer followed up, but did not get a call back until Jan. 6.

Jan. 10, 2017: President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, informs Trump of the military plan to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa with the help of Syrian Kurdish forces. Obama’s team informed Trump because execution of the plan would not occur until after the inauguration. Turkey has long opposed US forces partnering with Kurdish forces in the region. Trump national security adviser-designate Flynn tells Rice to hold off on approving the mission.

March 7, 2017: Former national security adviser Mike Flynn files registration documents confirming that between August 2016 and Election Day, he’d earned $530,000 for lobbying work on behalf of a company owned by a Turkish businessman. Flynn acknowledges that his work as a foreign agent could have benefitted the Turkish government.

March 9, 2017: Responding to questions about Mike Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkish interests during the campaign and thereafter, Vice President Mike Pence tells Fox News’ Bret Baier twice that he’d just learned of it: “Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for Gen. Flynn’s resignation.” BAIER: “You’re disappointed by the story?” PENCE: “The first I heard of it, and I think it is, uh, it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign.” Asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s activities on behalf of Turkish interests, Sean Spicer says, “I don’t believe that that was known.”

March 22, 2017: In a joint letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee request information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with foreign governments, including Russia and Turkey.

May 9, 2017: Over Turkey’s objections, the Pentagon announces that the US will partner with Kurds to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. On Jan. 10, the Obama administration had presented President-elect Trump with a plan to partner with the Kurds against ISIS, but his then-national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn had killed it.

Cover-up #2: Pence, Flynn and Russia

April through November 2016: Mike Flynn and other advisers to the Trump campaign have at least 18 phone calls and emails with Russian officials, including six contacts involving Russian ambassador

Late November 2016: In a meeting that includes senior Trump transition national security team members, national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn reveals he has scheduled a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In attendance is Marshall Billingslea, a member of the team who had been a senior Pentagon official for President George W. Bush. He warns Flynn that any such communications carry risks because US intelligence agencies are almost certainly monitoring Kislyak’s conversations. After the meeting, Billingsea asks national security officials in the Obama White House for a copy of the classified CIA profile of Kislyak.

Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day President Obama announces sanctions against Russian in retaliation for its interference in the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Flynn places five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.

Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin makes a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweets:

Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016

Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Vice President Pence says Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental,” explaining: “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”

Also on Jan. 15, 2017: On Fox News Sunday, Pence denies contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Responding to Chris Wallace, Pence says, “All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates were with the American people.” On a third try, Wallace asks if Pence had ever asked Donald Trump if there were any contacts in the campaign between Trump or his associates and Russians, Pence answers, “Of course not.”

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump and Pence are inaugurated.

Jan. 22, 2017: Flynn is sworn in as national security adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, Spicer says none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to The Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and US intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey reportedly asked Yates to wait a bit longer so that the FBI could develop more information and speak with Flynn himself. The FBI interviews Flynn shortly thereafter.

Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs White House Counsel Don McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”

Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it.

Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn tells reporters at The Washington Post he did not discuss US sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changes his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

Feb. 10, 2017: Trump tells reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Feb. 13, 2017: The Washington Post breaks another story: Then-Acting Attorney General had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigns.

Feb. 19, 2017: NBC’s Chuck Todd questions Reince Priebus about Flynn’s firing. The White House line was that Trump had fired Flynn because he’d lied to Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians about US sanctions. But that left an awkward gap of more than two weeks during which Trump apparently knew about Flynn’s deception before firing him. “Why did more than a week go by before the vice president was informed of this issue?” Todd asks. “Well, I think he was always aware of the issue as to whether or not he talked about sanctions,” Priebus answers. Later, Todd asks about the more than two-week delay between Yates’ disclosure of Flynn’s deception and Trump’s decision to fire him. “Waiting that long, do you regret that it looks like that the vice president is essentially not in the loop?” Todd asks. “No,” Priebus replies, “the vice president’s in the loop on everything, Chuck.”

March 30, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Mike Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying before congressional intelligence committees. The next day, his lawyer confirms, “Gen. Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit.”

March 31, 2017: Trump tweets: @realDonaldTrump

Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
4:04 AM – 31 Mar 2017

April 19, 2017: The White House refuses the March 22 bipartisan request from the House Oversight Committee for more information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with the Russian and .

April 25, 2017: Flynn reportedly receives a message from Trump to “stay strong.” When the story appears on May 18, the White House does not respond to a request for comment.

April 28, 2017: The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee send letters to several former Trump campaign advisers, including Carter Page, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Among other requests, the letters ask for a “list of all meetings between you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015 and Jan. 20, 2017.” The letters also request information about any such meetings of which they are aware, as well as all documents relating to Trump campaign communications with Russian officials or business representatives. The committee also seeks information about any financial and real estate transactions related to Russia from June 15, 2015 through Trump’s inauguration.

May 11, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee sends Mike Flynn a subpoena for documents that he’d refused to produce voluntarily in response to the committee’s April 28 letter request.

May 19, 2017: Vice President Pence faces added scrutiny on what he knew about Flynn’s connections to Turkey and Russia — and when he knew it. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee post a Nov. 18, 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to Pence, who at the time was vice president-elect and chair of the presidential transition team. The letter expressed concerns about national security adviser-designate Flynn’s ties to those countries. In response to the posting, Pence’s spokesperson states, “The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding Gen. Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” A White House aide adds, “I’m not sure we saw the letter.” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee then post the formal Nov. 28, 2016 transition team message acknowledging receipt of Cummings’ letter.

May 22, 2017: Rather than produce documents in response to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike Flynn invokes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Cover-up #3: The Firing

May 8, 2017: Trump tells a few close aides, including Vice President Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn, that Comey has to go. According to ABC News, Pence, McGahn, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner are members of a small group that begins to prepare talking points about Comey’s firing. Trump summons Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to the White House, where he instructs them provide a written justification for removing Comey. Before Rosenstein prepares the requested memo, he knows that Trump intends to fire Comey.

May 9, 2017: Citing the May 9 recommendations of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Trump fires FBI Director Comey, ostensibly because of his inappropriate statements about the Clinton email investigation prior to the 2016 election. Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein write that terminating Comey is necessary to restore trust, confidence and integrity in the FBI. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump also says he “greatly appreciates you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

May 10, 2017: Pence says repeatedly that Comey’s firing occurred because Sessions and Rosenstein recommended it: The deputy attorney general “came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership. He brought that recommendation to the president. The attorney general concurred with that recommendation.”

Also on May 10, 2017: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump had been thinking about firing Comey “since the day he was elected,” but reiterates Pence’s position that Sessions and Rosenstein were “absolutely” the impetus for the firing.

Also on May 10, 2017: The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump had been the impetus for Comey’s firing, not Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

Also on May 10, 2017: Rod Rosenstein speaks by phone with White House counsel Don McGahn. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. He suggests that he can’t work in an environment where facts aren’t reported accurately.

Also on May 10, 2017: The White House releases a new timeline of the events relating to Comey’s firing. It recites that the impetus for removing Comey had come from Trump, not the deputy attorney general. But the White House acknowledges that Trump met with Sessions and Rosenstein on May 8 to discuss “reasons for removing the director” and that the attorney general and his deputy sent their written recommendations to Trump on May 9.

Also on May 10, 2017: House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asks the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Comey’s firing.

Also on May 10, 2017: During an Oval Office meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides, Trump discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.”

May 11, 2017: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies that James Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day…. The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”

Also on May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he had already decided to fire Comey before his meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story….” Trump also says that on three different occasions — once in person and twice over the phone — he’d asked Comey if he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia, and Comey told him he wasn’t.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/is-pence-next-a-timeline-of-the-vice-presidents-role-in-trumps-russia-related-mess-provides-some-clues/

Vladdy has last laugh

The Putin Puppet embarrasses us all and makes Vladdy so proud

Watch as the puppet and arrogant son of bitch Trump shoves Montenegro’s foreign minister out of his way.
Oh ya, Montenegro just joined NATO over the angry protests of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, coincidence?

Trump’s first visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels didn’t look like a picnic. There were the awkward greetings with other leaders; there was the pushing aside of Montenegro’s foreign minister at a photo op; there were the seeming smirks of his counterparts during his speech; and there was the conspicuous absence of public (and normally routine) promises to commit to the alliance’s all-important mutual defense pledge. The day seemed like a low point in Trump’s inaugural foreign trip.
“NATO leaders had hoped to hear President Trump offer a ringing and explicit commitment to the alliance’s basic principle that an attack on one nation is an attack on all. Instead, what they got was a full-on blast of campaign-style nationalism as he castigated them for failing to live up to NATO spending pledges.
“It was a harsh message at a meeting intended to demonstrate unity. The raised eyebrows of Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel during Trump’s speech may have spoken for more than one leader.    from The Primer:Washington Post

Trump’s behavior at NATO is a national embarrassment

Poor NATO. After all of the hoops summit organizers reportedly jumped through to accommodate President Trump and his anemic attention span, he definitely was not on his best behavior. Trump was the party guest whom no one really wants to deal with but has to — because he has more money than anyone else. The party guest who shows up and berates the hosts for not paying for their fair share of the defense spending cake. To borrow from NFL player Marshawn Lynch, Trump acted as though he was there just so he wouldn’t get fined.
The NATO summit isn’t over yet, but so far, it’s So Trump. According to early press pool reports, Trump literally gave NATO allies the cold shoulder:

Speaking of shoulders, the U.S. president basically shoved the prime minister of Montenegro, the newest member of NATO, to get to the front of the group, because AMERICA FIRST:

After Trump called NATO obsolete (then proceeded to walk that back), Europe was looking for public support of Article 5, which affirms that NATO members will come to the mutual defense of any member that is under attack. But alas, Trump could not even bring himself to utter explicitly that the U.S. supports Article 5 in his remarks at Brussels, which every single U.S. president has done since Harry Truman in 1949. If NATO allies were nervous about the United States’ commitment to Europe’s security before, they must be fuming now. The NATO summit comes as reports surface that British police are withholding intelligence from the United States after leaks to U.S. media about the Manchester bombing investigation, and weeks after Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians about operations against the Islamic State. For all of Trump’s fire and fury about the United States getting the raw end of the deal from NATO, from an optics standpoint, it is the United States that is looking like the irresponsible partner.

NATO members being insulted by Puppet Trump and no US commitment to Article 5

Perhaps in Trump’s eyes, the Saudis threw a much better shindig — spending $68 million to host Trump. Well, really, it was a $110 billion dollar fete, considering the price tag for the historic weapons deal that the United States signed with Saudi Arabia. Trump appeared to be much more friendly and relaxed among Saudi Arabian and other Gulf leaders than with our European allies. Obviously, Trump was bedazzled by the kingdom’s hospitality, but none of the Saudi opulence and money can whitewash Saudi Arabia’s terrible record of fueling Wahhabi terrorism, carrying out record numbers of public beheadings, contributing to famine in Yemen, and withholding many basic rights for Saudi women and girls. Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in British history, Trump is visibly more comfortable praising autocrats and extremist governments who help to fuel violence and conflict. That should be a slap in the face to our liberal allies in Europe.
Maybe next time, NATO should serve chocolate cake, give out gold medals, impress Trump with glowing orbs, and throw in a sword dance or two. Oh, and $100 billion.
But in all seriousness, for anyone who cares about the America’s global leadership and the future of Europe, Trump’s behavior at the NATO summit has been embarrassing.
opinions from Karen Attiah The Washington Post’s Global Opinions Editor

Russian fake-news story about AG Lynch may have gotten Trump elected, gag!

A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

Former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.

The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.

The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message.

In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it.

Current and former officials have argued that the secret document gave Comey good reason to take the extraordinary step over the summer of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement.

James Comey

Comey had little choice, these people have said, because he feared that if Lynch announced no charges against Clinton, and then the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned.

From the moment the bureau received the document from a source in early March 2016, its veracity was the subject of an internal debate at the FBI. Several people familiar with the matter said the bureau’s doubts about the document hardened in August when officials became more certain that there was nothing to substantiate the claims in the Russian document. FBI officials knew the bureau never had the underlying email with the explosive allegation, if it ever existed.

Yet senior officials at the bureau continued to rely on the document before and after the election as part of their justification for how they handled the case.

Wasserman Schultz and Benardo said in separate interviews with The Washington Post that they do not know each other and have never communicated. Renteria, in an interview, and people familiar with Lynch’s account said the two also do not know each other and have never communicated. Lynch declined to comment for this article.

Wasserman Schultz

Moreover, Wasserman Schultz, Benardo and Renteria said they have never been interviewed by the FBI about the matter.

Comey’s defenders still insist that there is reason to believe the document is legitimate and that it rightly played a major role in the director’s thinking.

“It was a very powerful factor in the decision to go forward in July with the statement that there shouldn’t be a prosecution,” said a person familiar with the matter. “The point is that the bureau picked up hacked material that hadn’t been dumped by the bad guys [the Russians] involving Lynch. And that would have pulled the rug out of any authoritative announcement.”

Other people familiar with the document disagree sharply, saying such claims are disingenuous because the FBI has known for a long time that the Russian intelligence document is unreliable and based on multiple layers of hearsay.

“It didn’t mean anything to the investigation until after [senior FBI officials] had to defend themselves,” said one person familiar with the matter. “Then they decided it was important. But it’s junk, and they already knew that.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment. Comey did not respond to requests for comment.

The people familiar with the Russian document spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss its contents. No one familiar with it asked The Post to withhold details about its origins to safeguard the source.

Several of them said they were concerned that revealing details now about the document could be perceived as an effort to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey, but they argued that the document and Comey’s firing are distinct issues. Most of the people familiar with the document disagree strongly with the decision to fire the director, but they also criticized current and former officials who have privately cited the document as an important factor in the decisions made by Comey and other senior FBI officials. Comey told lawmakers he would discuss it with them only in a classified session.

After the bureau first received the document, it attempted to use the source to obtain the referenced email but could not do so, these people said. The source that provided the document, they said, had previously supplied other information that the FBI was also unable to corroborate.

While it was conducting the Clinton email investigation, the FBI did not interview anyone mentioned in the Russian document about its claims. At the time, FBI agents were probing numerous hacking cases involving Democrats and other groups, but they never found an email like the one described in the document, these people said.

Then on July 5, Comey decided to announce on his own — without telling Lynch ahead of time — that he was closing the Clinton email case without recommending charges against anyone. Aides to Comey said he decided to act alone after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton for nearly a half-hour on an airport tarmac in Phoenix about a week earlier — and have since said privately the Russian document was also a factor in that decision.

The appearance of possible conflict arising from the Phoenix meeting led FBI leadership to want to show it had reached the decision independently, without political interference from the Justice Department.

About a month after Comey’s announcement, FBI officials asked to meet privately with the attorney general. At the meeting, they told Lynch about a foreign source suggesting she had told Renteria that Clinton did not have to worry about the email probe, because she would keep the FBI in check, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Just so you know, I don’t know this person and have never communicated with her,’’ Lynch told the FBI officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The FBI officials assured her the conversation was not a formal interview and said the document “didn’t have investigative value,’’ the person said.

Nevertheless, the officials said, they wanted to give the attorney general what is sometimes referred to as a “defensive briefing’’ — advising someone of a potential intelligence issue that could come up at some future point.

The agents never mentioned Wasserman Schultz to Lynch but told her there was some uncertainty surrounding the information because of “possible translation issues,” according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Lynch told them they were welcome to speak to her staff and to conduct a formal interview of her, the person said. The FBI declined both offers.

Renteria, a California Democrat, first heard of the Russian document and its description of her role when a Post reporter called her.

“Wow, that’s kind of weird and out of left field,’’ she said. “I don’t know Loretta Lynch, the attorney general. I haven’t spoken to her.’’

Renteria said she did know a California woman by the same name who specializes in utility issues. The Loretta Lynch in California is a lawyer who once did campaign work for the Clintons decades ago involving the Whitewater investigation. Bloggers and others have previously confused the two women, including during Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general.

Wasserman Schultz and Benardo, the alleged emailers, were also perplexed by the Russian document’s claims.

Wasserman Schultz said: “Not only do I not know him — I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know who this is. There’s no truth to this whatsoever. I have never sent an email remotely like what you’re describing.’’

She added that she had met Lynch, the former attorney general, once briefly at a dinner function.

Benardo said of Wasserman Schultz: “I’ve never met her. I’ve only read about her.”

“I’ve never in my lifetime received any correspondence of any variety — correspondence, fax, telephone, from Debbie Wasserman Schultz,’’ he said. “If such documentation exists, it’s of course made up.’’

As for Renteria, Wasserman Schultz said she knew who she was from past political work but had “virtually no interaction” with her during the 2016 campaign. “I was definitely in the same room as her on more than one occasion, but we did not interact, and no email exchange during the campaign, or ever,’’ she said.

When asked, the individuals named in the document struggled to fathom why their identities would have been woven together in a document describing communications they said never happened. But others recognized the dim outlines of a conspiracy theory that would be less surprising in Russia, where Soros — the founder of the organization Benardo works for — and Clinton are both regarded as political enemies of the Kremlin.

“The idea that Russians would tell a story in which the Clinton campaign, Soros and even an Obama administration official are connected — that Russians might tell such a story, that is not at all surprising,” said Matt Rojansky, a Russia expert and director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. “Because that is part of the Kremlin worldview.”

The secret intelligence document has attracted so much attention recently that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey about it during the director’s final public appearance in Congress as FBI director before he was fired.

Comey said that he had spoken with the heads of the congressional intelligence committees about the document privately but that it was too sensitive to discuss it in public.

“The subject is classified, and in an appropriate forum I’d be happy to brief you on it,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But I can’t do it in an open hearing.”

No such briefing occurred before he was fired.

from Washington Post

Trump threatens to withdraw from NATO and throw our allies under the bus for his BFF Putin

Trump is still doing his Putin Puppet schtick

In a speech to NATO leaders, President Trump says NATO must focus on terrorism and that “nations owe massive amounts of money” on defense.

Thursday’s NATO meeting was scheduled to allow Trump and leaders of NATO states to take the measure of each other. The 27 other members had hoped to relieve anxiety that arose during Trump’s campaign, when he questioned why the United States was spending its own money to defend Europe, called NATO “obsolete” and ill-equipped to deal with terrorism, and threatened to withdraw if other members failed to pay their “fair share.”

Washington Post and youtube

Donny has so lowered our expectations that he is given effusive credit if he ever performs a routine function even adequately.

Albert Hunt: The Age of Trump Is ‘Defining Deviancy Down’

When the president seems inept or corrupt, we shrug. If he ever fumbles through adequately, he is praised.

Pat Moynihan, the great politician-intellectual, warned about the dangers of “defining deviancy down,” in which worse and

Albert Hunt

worse behavior comes to be accepted as the norm.

The late New York senator’s essay, almost a quarter century ago, was about crime and family structure. Today it applies to the Trump presidency: the danger that chronic lying, ignorance of history and policy, petty invective, racial demagoguery and personal greed fall within the realm of the norm.

If President Donald Trump gives a speech that is reasonably coherent or takes a sensible action, suddenly even some critics treat it as a momentous occurrence. But wait a moment. That’s actually what presidents are supposed to do.

When he commits one of his especially egregious acts, the news media world too often fall into one flawed approach or another. Either they downshift into partisan mode — in which those who constantly attack him continue to do so, and those who critique his critics continue their barrage — or they pursue a misbegotten mission for “balance.”

The sudden firing of the FBI director, James Comey, last week gave us a perfect example. The move was shocking because Comey was leading the investigation into whether any Trump operatives colluded with the Kremlin to affect the American presidential election.

Virtually everything the White House said for two days was untrue: that the action had nothing to do with the Russian probe; that the president fired Comey only because of the recommendation of the attorney general, who supposedly was recusing himself from the matter, and the deputy attorney general; that the president was shocked at “atrocities” Comey committed in an earlier investigation of Hillary Clinton; and that morale was terrible at the FBI. It isn’t clear whether White House aides, and Vice President Mike Pence, lied or whether they were lied to by the president.

It gets worse. Roger Stone, a longtime dirty trickster who has been close to Trump starting three decades ago courtesy of the nefarious Roy Cohn, boasted that he advised the president to fire Comey. Stone, who last year predicted it “soon will be (John) Podesta’s time in the barrel” seven weeks before the Russian-spawned leak of the Clinton chairman’s emails, is a prime suspect in the investigation.

There is one clear truth: Trump fired Comey to stifle the Russia investigation. One reason the bureau considers it a “significant investigation” is a pattern of Trump associates caught in lies about their Russian connections: foreign policy adviser Carter Page, the administration’s initial national security adviser Michael Flynn and the attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Duplicity is the norm for Trump. As a candidate he repeatedly lied. As president he has persistently peddled fiction like the crazed charge that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower and baseless claims of widespread illegal voting.

But it is not the president alone who is defining deviancy down. It’s also how people react to his actions.

When Trump fired missiles at a Syrian airbase, the usually sensible Fareed Zakaria declared “He became President of the United States” with that action. To be president is to have a coherent policy and to pursue it. Can this administration articulate a policy on Syria or North Korea or Russia?

Clear thinking from leading voices in business, economics, politics, foreign affairs, culture, and more.

After Trump’s first address to Congress, the liberal commentator Van Jones gushed over his honoring the widow of a Navy Seal, calling it “one of the most extraordinary moments” in American politics. It was a nice touch, but not as memorable Ronald Reagan honoring the doomed Challenger space crew, or George W. Bush with a bullhorn at Ground Zero after 9/11 or Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at a Charleston church after a white supremacist killed nine African-Americans at a Bible study.

(Actually one of the few memorable lines that evening was Trump’s call that “the time for trivial fights is over.” What a thought. In a tweet a few days ago, the president of the United States renewed his bickering with Rosie O’Donnell.)

This president has so lowered our expectations that he is given effusive credit if he ever performs a routine function even adequately.

James M. Perry, a great Wall Street Journal political reporter, used to worry about any would-be president who didn’t know much about history. Trump keeps demonstrating that he knows almost no history. On ethics, he and his family seems to view 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a no-risk hedge fund to enrich themselves.

Imagine what Pat Moynihan would say.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-14/the-age-of-trump-is-defining-deviancy-down

Pope Francis skoolz “Donny two scoops” on economics, climate change, and nonviolence

The Examiner would like to note that despite the Pope’s good intentions, giving Trump books to read is the equivalent of leaving them in the orangutans pen at the zoo.

Is the Pope praying? Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. Luke 22:42

Pope Francis politely shades Trump’s climate ignorance with a parting gift

Pope Francis and Donald Trump had their much anticipated first in-person meeting on Wednesday, a 30-minute conversation in which the pope reportedly “did not smile” as he asked the president to work to bring about peace in the world. Despite concern that the two leaders — who hold diametrically opposite views on several issues — might spar during the summit, the exchange appeared to be relatively free of fireworks.

But according to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis did offer Trump a none-too-subtle parting gift as he left: copies of the pontiff’s published works on progressive economics, climate change, and nonviolence.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way (with the possible exception of Amoris Laetitia, a 2016 work on the Catholic church’s developing view of family life).

For example, Francis gave Trump a copy of Laudato Si’, the pope’s famous encyclical on the environment that was published in 2015.

Unlike Trump, who once claimed climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, Francis’ encyclical affirms that global warming has been confirmed by a “very consistent scientific consensus” and that humans are the cause. And while Trump has proposed budget cuts to climate initiatives and threatened to rescind America’s participation in the historic Paris Climate Accords, Francis’ Laudato Si’ insists nations take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way.

“It is urgent to develop policy so that in the coming years, we drastically reduce carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gas emissions, by, for example, replacing fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources,” a translation of the encyclical reads.

Francis also handed Trump a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 papal exhortation that espouses a deeply progressive view of economics. In it, Francis decried the “idolatry of money” and dismissed trickle-down economics — a centerpiece of conservative monetary policy — as something that has “never been confirmed by the facts.”

Trump, on the other hand, is known to exaggerate his own extravagant wealth, and is currently pushing a budget that will bolster the wealthy while cutting programs that aid the poor.

Francis then made a point to show the president a signed copy of the message he delivered on the 2017 World Day of Peace, in which the pope lifted up nonviolence as a political method for global problem-solving.

“When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking,” Francis declares in the speech. “In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

The pontiff sought to drive the point home by handing Trump a medallion he often presents to world leaders, which depicts an olive tree binding together a broken rock. “I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace,” Francis said.

“We can use peace,” Trump replied.

Trump, however, has been lauded by conservatives for his willingness to use some of the largest weapons available against militants in the Middle East. He also campaigned on promises to rapidly expand the military, “bomb the hell” out of America’s enemies, and reinstitute the use of water boarding as a tactic.

As he left, Trump promised Francis he would mull over the writings, saying, “Well, I’ll be reading them.”

As they concluded, Francis moved away from policy to have a more lighthearted moment with the President, although the exact meaning appears to be lost in translation: he took First Lady Melania Trump by the hand, looked over at the president, and quipped, “What do you give him to eat?”

UPDATE: According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Vatican’s Secretary of State also urged Trump to keep America in the Paris climate agreement.

From Think progress

A scene from the Godfather or traditional sicilian funeral?

Despite ISIS and Trump, even more collusion and treason news comes out

Former CIA director Brennan warned FSB chief that Moscow’s election interference would backfire.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday that he personally warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service last year that Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election would backfire and cause severe damage to the country’s relationship with the United States.

Describing a previously undisclosed high-level discussion between Washington and Moscow, Brennan said in a phone conversation with the head of Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, that “American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”

In congressional testimony, Brennan said that such meddling “would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement” in relations between the United States and Russia. Brennan said that the FSB chief, Alexander Bortnikov, twice denied that Russia was waging such a campaign, but said he would carry Brennan’s message to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

“I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter,” Brennan said. His remarks came at the start of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee as part of that panel’s ongoing investigation of a Russian influence campaign in the 2016 presidential election, as well as whether there was collusion or coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign.

Brennan led the CIA during a critical period last year when U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia was not only attempting to disrupt the election but was actively seeking to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help elect Trump.

Brennan was among the top officials who briefed then-President-elect Trump on that conclusion — which represented the consensus view of the CIA, the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Brennan became so alarmed by the Russian intervention last fall that he held classified meetings with top congressional officials to impress upon them the unprecedented nature of Moscow’s interference.

Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and individuals with links to the Trump campaign. “I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind,” Brennan said. He emphasized that the information he saw did not amount to proof of collusion or cooperation between Trump associates and Russia, but said that it “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.”

With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began last July – the first time that a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.

He said that the targets of those Russian approaches may not even have been aware of the nature of the contacts, because Russian services often disguise their efforts by using intermediaries. “Many times [U.S. individuals] do not know that the individual they are interacting with is a Russian,” Brennan said.

The former CIA chief is the latest in a series of senior Obama administration officials to appear publicly before Congress in hearings that have often produced damaging headlines for Trump.

Earlier this month, former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified that she expected White House officials to “take action” after warning that then-national security adviser Michael T. Flynn had misled administration officials about his contacts with Russia.

At that same hearing, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said that Moscow’s leaders “must be congratulating themselves for having exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal expenditure of resource,” a reference not only to the outcome of the 2016 race, but the chaos that has characterized the early months of the Trump administration.

Brennan has feuded publicly with Trump over the president’s treatment of intelligence agencies. In January, he lashed out at Trump for comparing U.S. spy agencies to Nazi secret police.

Brennan was particularly offended by Trump’s remarks during a speech at CIA headquarters on the day he was inaugurated. Trump used the CIA’s Wall of Honor — a collection of engraved stars marking lives of agency operatives killed in the line of duty — to launch a rambling speech in which he bragged about his election victory.

Brennan called the appearance “despicable” and said that Trump should be “ashamed.”

Greg Miller for The Washington Post.

 

The president reportedly attempted to enlist the head of the NSA and director of national intelligence to defend against the Russia inquiry.

Rogers NSA

Donald Trump reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, and Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, to publicly refute the possibility of collusion after former FBI Director James Comey announced in March that the bureau is investigating potential links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, according to The Washington Post on Monday.

DNI Coats

Citing unnamed government officials, the Post’s Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima report that Trump asked Coats and Rogers “to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” But, according to the report, the intelligence officials turned down the ask, “which they both deemed to be inappropriate.” The White House told the Post that it would not confirm or deny the allegations.

The news follows a series of potentially damaging reports centered on Trump and the former FBI director. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Trump asked Comey to halt a federal investigation into his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was ousted from the administration after making false claims about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and that Trump had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Comey to pledge loyalty prior to abruptly firing him on May 9th. The White House disputes both reports.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to serve as a special counsel in the Russia investigation earlier this month. CNN reported on Monday that Mueller has already been briefed on memos drafted by Comey detailing his interactions with Trump. Monday’s Post report suggests there may be an even more extensive paper trail that could come under scrutiny as part of the investigation.

According to the Post:

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

Congressional Democrats have accused Trump of obstructing justice following reports that he attempted to intervene in the Flynn investigation and another Times report that Trump told Russian officials that he felt relieved of pressure caused by the Russia inquiry after firing Comey.

The Post’s report on Monday also contends that White House officials “sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn.”

When Trump fired Comey, he originally cited a memo criticizing the FBI chief’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. He later openly acknowledged in an interview with NBC News that “this Russia thing” was on his mind  when he made the decision to fire Comey, who at the time had been serving as the head of the bureau probing ties between Trump associates and the Russian government.

The White House has insisted that there is no evidence of collusion. And Trump flatly denied the possibility at a press conference last week, saying “there was no collusion” with Russia. In the letter the president sent to Comey telling him he had been fired, Trump wrote that he had “greatly appreciate[d]” the FBI director “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

Despite Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, Democrats have continued to urge the formation of an independent commission to further probe the extent of Russian involvement in the election. Those calls, and the pressure on Congress to support such a move, may grow louder now.